L.A. Galaxy fans were star struck when David Beckham arrived four years ago, but these days celebrity sightings are more common than the British soccer star’s rare field appearances.
It’s only going to get worse, now that Beckham will be out for most of this season due to an Achilles tendon injury he suffered March 14 while on loan to AC Milan.
Last year, during his first season on loan to the championship Italian soccer club, the Galaxy saw attendance fall by 6,000 to about 20,000 per game at the Home Depot Center. Much of the decline was due to the loss of disappointed season ticket holders who had expected Beckham to play for the entire Major League Soccer season, which runs from March to October. Instead, he started
in July after the Italian league season was over.
With the injury, he may not be back this season until September. Still, the Galaxy is hoping the attendance decline won’t be as severe.
“We’ve weeded out the people who bought tickets out of curiosity more than anything. We are back to Galaxy fans,” said Tom Payne, president of business operations for the Galaxy, owned by AEG, the downtown L.A.-based sports and entertainment company.
The Galaxy team has something going in its favor, though. Last year, the squad reached the MLS Championship – where they lost to Real Salt Lake – and the starting lineup, with the exception of Beckham, is back. The roster, of course, includes league MVP Landon Donovan, though he will miss some games due to a starting role on the United States World Cup team.
Beckham’s loss, actually, will probably hurt the most on the road, where last year the team drew nearly 20 percent more fans with him than without him. At home, the team is compensating the best it can by prominently featuring Donovan. However, even Payne acknowledged that the American star does not shine as brightly as Beckham.
“It has an effect on the guys trying to sell sponsorships,” he said.
The Los Angeles Kings, one of the city’s more invisible sports teams, are skating into the postseason for the first time since 2002.
As might be expected, the team’s good fortune on the ice has boosted ticket sales. The Kings have added more than 650 new full-season ticket holders for next year – a number that could reach 1,000, depending if the team reaches the Stanley Cup.
But here’s the surprising news: This year’s growth is the second consecutive year of solid season ticket sales.
Last season, when the Kings finished just out of the playoffs, the franchise added 1,000 season ticket holders, giving the team 6,200 as of the beginning of the current season in October. There also are 4,000 premier level and suite ticket holders who purchase seats from Staples Center as part of packages for all events at the arena.
Why the sales growth? Call it a taste of success after years of some rough skating.
“This core group of season ticket holders has gone through tough times, but a promising finish to the season and a playoff run should get them to stick around,” said Kelly Cheesman, vice president of ticket sales.
The Kings led all National Hockey League teams this season in increased attendance, with an average home attendance of 17,226 through the first 37 games. Last year, the team averaged 16,488.
The Pac-10 Tournament had only nine teams hooping it up in March because of USC’s self-imposed postseason ban due to recruiting violations involving former Trojan O.J. Mayo two years ago.
The result: This year’s men’s basketball tournament at Staples Center had one fewer game, and lower ticket and television revenue. Even so, Pac-10 officials did not formally penalize USC for the violations, which involved boosters giving money to Mayo, now a star with the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association.
However, USC didn’t get off entirely scot-free. Each university in the conference is required to sell 750 tickets for the tournament and pay the conference for any unsold tickets. With a range in price from $25 to $125, and USC not in the mix, it’s unlikely that all were sold.
University officials did not return telephone calls for comment.
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